PRAGUE -- Iraq has agreed to buy 28 Czech-made military airplanes in a deal worth $1 billion ((EURO)775 million), part of a broader effort by Baghdad to rebuild military capabilities destroyed during the U.S.-led invasion of the country, officials said Friday.
Iraq only has a few planes and is unable to defend its air space. The government has bought billions of dollars in tanks, fighter jets, ships and other weapons from the U.S. in recent years, but is now looking to forge military ties with other allies and nations, including Russia.
"We want to boost the ties with our old friends," Iraqi Defense Minister Saad al-Dulaimi said in a statement.
Czech Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra and Al-Dulaimi agreed to the deal Friday after a visit to the headquarters of the aircraft producer, Aero Vodochody, just north of Prague. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also participated in the talks.
Vondra said technical details still have to be worked out before the deal will be signed.
Under the deal, Iraq will buy 24 new subsonic L-159 military planes, which are light combat and training planes. It will also get another four planes the Czech military no longer needs, Vondra said.
He said the first used plane should be delivered half a year after the signing and all the new planes should be handed over to Iraq within four years.
The agreement, which took two years to negotiate, also foresees Czech army experts training Iraqi pilots.